Law Clerk Job Description: Top Duties and Qualifications

Last updated: June 22, 2022

A Law Clerk, or a Judicial Clerk, is responsible for helping judges form their opinions on legal cases by performing thorough research and handling paperwork. Their duties include creating trial briefings, writing legal documents and communicating with legal counsel about the progress of their case.

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Law Clerk duties and responsibilities

Law Clerks will use in-depth research and investigative skills to review laws and provide expert consultation. Law Clerks have the following responsibilities:

  • Compile legal research to assist with a case
  • Consult with a Judge, offering expert recommendations on a legal case
  • Draft, review and edit the Judge’s orders and statements for clarity and accuracy
  • Assist in the courtroom with trials and hearings
  • Communicate with parties regarding trials and schedules
  • Update court calendars and schedules
  • Maintain the chamber library
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What does a Law Clerk do?

Law Clerks work at federal and state courthouses to provide direct assistance to judges so that they can produce well-informed judgments and handle court proceedings efficiently. Law Clerks prepare documents such as bench memos, legal orders and judge opinions then proofread everything carefully and confirm any citations. Based on judge instruction, Law Clerks study past cases, legal journals and other resources to provide advice on appropriate sentencing. They fill out forms, manage evidence, draft schedules, communicate with attorneys and clients, record statements from witnesses, assist in a courtroom during a trial and carefully file court records.

Law Clerk skills and qualifications

Law Clerks typically have certain prerequisite skills or certifications, which include:

  • Excellent research skills
  • Written and verbal communication
  • Ability to maintain confidentiality at all times
  • Knowledge of compliance laws
  • Good interpersonal skills
  • Ability to prepare memos and decisions
  • Strong attention to detail

Law Clerk Salary Expectations

A Law Clerk makes an average of $51,024 per year. Salary may depend on level of experience, education and the geographical location.

Law Clerk education and training requirements

Law Clerks need a Juris Doctor from an accredited school, though it’s common for students to apply for positions in their final year of school. Courts and firms typically seek candidates with extensive extracurricular activities while in law school, such as being a part of a law review or student bar association. Internships with a court or firm during school are also valuable experiences. These activities give students practical experience that can help them excel as Law Clerks. Though it is not required, some courts could seek candidates who have passed the state bar or plan to take it. 

Law Clerk experience requirements

Law Clerks typically don’t need prior work experience to get a position since they’re usually recent law school graduates. Instead, Law Clerks one or two years with a firm or court before continuing on their career paths. Employers should seek Law Clerk candidates who have extensive academic and internship experience. 

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Frequently asked questions about law clerks

 

What is the difference between a Law Clerk and a Paralegal?

Law Clerks and Paralegals are both legal professionals, with Law Clerks working directly with a judge and Paralegals assistant Attorneys. Judges often directly employ Law Clerks, and may have one or more Law Clerks dedicated to helping with their cases. A Paralegal might assist a single attorney or an entire law practice depending on their caseload. Paralegals tend to do more administrative work than Law Clerks, although they can perform research and carry out legal orders from their supervising Attorney. Law Clerks have the authority to provide legal advice, while Paralegals strictly work in a research and clerical role.

 

What are the qualities of a good Law Clerk?

Law Clerks need to be calm and composed, especially when assisting a judge in a courtroom environment where tensions are high. Good Law Clerks are meticulous and curious, able to pursue a line of research until they are satisfied with their findings. They are able to anticipate a judge’s priorities and prepare documents ahead of time, using their organizational skills to make research more efficient. Successful Law Clerks are logical and fair when writing opinions and interacting with prosecutors, defendants, attorneys and witnesses.

 

Do Law Clerks need to pass the bar?

Unlike Attorneys, Law Clerks do not need to pass the bar exam to provide legal advice and act as a legal arbiter. Some judges choose to list passing the bar as a condition of hire, but it is not a legal requirement because Law Clerks do not technically practice law and instead work in an advisory capacity.

 

What are the daily duties of a Law Clerk?

Law Clerks regularly research past court decisions, laws and legal opinions that could influence a judge’s decision on a case. They prepare statements for judges to approve or proofread a judge’s statements and add in essential citations and details. Before a court session, Law Clerks meet with judges to clarify case information and prepare the appropriate dockets and files. They communicate with legal counsel on behalf of their presiding judge, explaining the process for moving forward on a case.

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